Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, October 7, 2013

Craving Cookies and A Super Surprise

You wait patiently as the butter softens on the counter along with the eggs warming to room temperature.  You watch as the flour, salt, and baking soda are combined together and set aside.  Your excitement increases as the butter is creamed together with two sugars and a teaspoon (plus a little more) of vanilla.  When the eggs are finally added, you know it's almost done.

Shifting from one foot to the other, you wonder why it takes so long to add the dry ingredients.  Then you hear the package being opened.  Quickly two cups, okay, maybe two and half cups of those delicious morsels are poured and stirred into the batter.  Teaspoon by teaspoon, shapes are placed on the cookie sheet, which is then slid into the warm oven.

The longest ten minutes ever in the history of time is finally completed.  As the door opens, the most intoxicating smell in the world wafts through the kitchen.  You gaze longingly from your mom to the cookies. A nod is given. You never forget the first time you taste one, as all the flavors melt in your mouth.  There is nothing quite so good as a home-baked chocolate chip cookie.

If you think the need for these delectable delights is relegated to only humans, think again.  Once any living being gets a whiff of their aroma, the need to eat them is irresistible.  Tea Party Rules (Viking, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.) written by Ame Dyckman (Boy + Bot) with illustrations by K. G. Campbell (Lester's Dreadful Sweaters) tells the tale of a cub who has caught cookie fever.

Cub was playing in the woods
when he smelled something delicious.
He followed his nose through the
bushes and found...

Wily woodland creature that he is, Cub has found a plate covered with cookies.  It seems he is not alone in this discovery either.  There is another bear sitting in a chair right next to those tempting treats.

Unlike Cub, this bear is of the stuffed variety.  So when Cub tries to engage the bear in conversation, he is met with silence.  In fact he falls off his seat when Cub touches him.

Cub now knows the cookies are all his.  As he is about to savor the first bite of one, he hears someone coming.  Uh, oh...

Cub does the only thing he can think to do.  He masquerades as the teddy.  Let's stop here a moment.  There's a lively, young bear taking the place of an inanimate toy?

A young girl is ready for her tea party to begin.  The table is set.  The cookies are on the plate.  She has brought the tea and a bouquet of fresh flowers.  When she carefully peers at her bear, he seems to be a tad dirty.  This will not do.  Readers are introduced to Tea Party Rule number one, cleanliness.

Cub has no choice as he is carried inside by the girl.  He tolerates a bath because he wants those cookies in the worst way.  He endures rules two and three because all he can think about is consuming those cookies.

Oblivious to the discomfort Cub is enduring, the prim and proper girl goes about  HER preparations according to HER rules.  Again outside the girl pipes up, voicing her fourth and final rule.  This is the proverbial straw that breaks this little guy's back.   Cub is, after all, a bear.  Girl responds as only she can, playing by the rules. GAME ON!

Ame Dyckman's passion for play in her storytelling makes its presence known by the time the first page is turned.  Techniques such as blending the narrative with Cub and the girl speaking their thoughts aloud, repetition of key phrases, pausing to complete sentences and word emphasis, all promote the feeling we readers are there watching this friendship, however improbable, form.  The atmosphere hums with anticipation.  Giggling and guffaws are a given.

With Cub and the girl eyeing one another, ready to grab the single cookie, framed in tiny birch branches, on the front jacket and cover and the question asked and answered on the back, readers can sense fun just around the corner.  Opening and closing endpapers have readers gazing through a birch forest, looking for nature's residents hidden among the trees.  On the title page, edge to edge, across both pages, we are still in the woods but now we see a mother bear sleeping with a cub, as another wakes up.

Rendered in sepia marker and colored pencils, K. G. Campbell's illustrations are spirited, brimming with humor and an enchanted extension of the story.  Each is set amid liberal amounts of white space; his artwork is so detailed, so delicate, it's like the white is gently holding each picture. The visuals in turn flow around and become one with the text.  The looks on the faces of Cub, the little girl and her cat will have readers roaring with laughter.  I adore both the two page spreads in the little girl's bedroom as she implements her rules.  When she's carrying Cub and her cat back outside to the tea party setting, I'm grinning, grinning big and wide.

Tea Party Rules written by Ame Dyckman with illustrations by K. G. Campbell, is one of the best tea parties you will ever have the pleasure of attending.  It's impossible not to fall in love with the characters.  Wouldn't it be fun to plan a tea party with your students having them bring in their stuffed animal friends, dressing up to fit the occasion?  You could make up your own tea party rules.

To learn more about the author and illustrator follow the links to their websites embedded in their names above.  Ame has been interviewed at The Little Crooked Cottage, The Styling Librarian, and by Nicole Y. Walters.  The most exciting thing is happening below!

Today...yes today....Ame is sharing with the world her brand new book trailer for Tea Party Rules.  It's short, sweet and full of laughter and love, just like she is.

I am thrilled and thankful she agreed to answer some questions below.  Enjoy.

AME:  Thanks so much for having me on Librarian’s Quest, Margie!  I’m very excited to be here!  And—(YES, Cub!)  Cub is visiting today, and he’s very excited, too.

MARGIE:  I would like to know more about how you felt about the illustrations the first time you saw them.  What did you like best about them?  Did you and K.G. talk at all before you saw them?

AME:  Seeing K.G.’s illustrations for the first time was a RIOT!  K.G.’s a GENIUS with facial expressions—there’s so much humor in them!  I love all the little jokes he added, too—the bubble bath bottle, the artwork in the girl’s room, etc.—and I still crack up EVERY time I see Cub in that frilly pink dress.  (Sorry, Cub!  But I’m sure you can laugh about it by now, no?  Oh.  Moving right along…)  Sadly, K.G.’s far, far away on the other side of the country, so we didn’t really talk before first sketches except for an e-mailed “Hey, K.G.!  I bet you’re gonna ROCK it!”  And he did!  But I hope the two of us can hang out sometime soon.  OW!  (Why did you poke me, Cub?  Oh.)  Make that the THREE of us!

MARGIE:  I think the forest of birch trees adds to the lightness and fun of your narrative.

ME:  AFFIRMA—I mean, AGREED, Margie!  Kids enjoy looking for the hidden animals in the end pages.  I THINK I’ve found all of them!

MARGIE:  Did you and Husband Guy make the trailer?  It's the perfect amount of text and pictures to get people to read the book.

ME:  We did!  We cleared a few extra nights in our schedule by having cookies and tea for dinner, and—uh-oh.  (I was just kidding, Cub!  OF COURSE we didn’t eat cookies without you!)

AME:  Thanks again, Margie!  Cub can’t wait to try your chocolate chip cookie recipe!  (NO, Cub!  Those are MY car keys!)  Looks like I gotta go!  Happy reading, everybody!

This is my favorite recipe for chocolate chip cookies.  I clipped it from the Traverse City Record Eagle more than fifteen, probably twenty, years ago.

Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup sugar (I use raw with a little of the white)
2 eggs at room temperature (brown, cage-free, organic)
1 package (3 oz.) cook and serve vanilla pudding (not instant)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I use two)
Zest of one orange, reserving the juice
1 cup dried cherries
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour (unbleached)(I add 1/4 cup more to make the cookies less flat.)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 package (12 oz.) chocolate chip morsels (Ghirardelli)

Grate orange and chop zest finely. Squeeze orange and pour juice over dried cherries. Simmer until cherries are soft, or you can microwave them for 1 minute.  (I never do this.)  Drain cherries; set aside.  Combine flour and baking soda.  Mix butter, orange zest, sugars, eggs, pudding mix and vanilla together until creamy.  Gradually add flour/soda mixture.  Combine fully then fold in cherries and chocolate morsels.  Let dough rest in the refrigerator for one full hour. (This is important.) Place large teaspoons full of dough on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in 375 degree oven for 15 minutes.  (Watch the time though depending on the humidity and your oven. It might take fewer minutes.)


  1. I have this book on reserve at the library and am waiting waiting waiting so anxiously to see it. Your scrumptious review only makes me want to read it MORE. Thanks for sharing the recipe too. Have never had cherries in chocolate chip cookies before. mmmmmmmm

    1. I was going to send you an email Jama about this book. It is perfect for you. Ame and KG have created a very special story. I think you and Cornelius are going to find it very appetizing...er...good. Do give the recipe a try, I think you will like that too.